Pre-threshold: Part three of our series on becoming a head of department
There are subtle ways to manage pupil behaviour which some staff overlook.
As a head of department you can focus on these when trying to improve your pupils' conduct and attitudes.
A clean and organised room promotes positive behaviour, as it sets a standard. Point out to pupils how clean it is at the beginning of the lesson and that this is how you expect it to be at the end. Make them take responsibility for their mess and to respect their environment.
Exhibiting their work shows the children that it is valued, thus motivating them. With the workload agreement staff should be given provision for putting up displays if they don't want to do it themselves. Keep copies of good work in all year groups or schemes of work. If possible, get them laminated. These can be used as examples to show staff what can be achieved and can be handed round the class to show pupils the minimum standard you expect.
Regularity is crucial for overall effectiveness. All staff should follow the school or departmental behaviour management system. However, "preventative" procedures should be departmental policy. For example, staff should always be at the door as a class arrives, lining up quietly outside before entering and standing behind their desks in silence before the lesson starts. As head of department it is your job to support your staff.
If applicable, be visible in the corridor chatting to pupils, showing them you are available if needed. If there are issues with a class or department member, then they need your support. In class, staff need to be confident with procedures and know they will be supported. Pupils "feed" on teacher weaknesses if allowed to.
Ideally, every teacher should spend their first lesson with a class going through the rules and requirements. It is important to show that it is a shared relationship with shared responsibilities. Combine your pupil expectations with what they can expect from you. For example: "I expect you to complete your homework on time and you can rely on me to mark it fairly and return it to you within a week." Pupils are made to take responsibility for their actions: so should staff. Display school or department rules as a reference point.
This is the key to persuading most children to work and to behave. Pupils love it. Use it as much as possible without sounding insincere, or where appropriate. Give clear reasons, such as "well done for sitting in silence", "excellent answer", or "great work on this table", so pupils can identify the behaviour that is being rewarded and try it themselves. Have staff count the number of positive comments they use in a lesson compared with negative ones. The aim is to make the positives outweigh the negatives.
This also encourages good pupil work and behaviour. Although you may teach many pupils in a week, it is possible to organise your marking in a way that allows it to be done regularly. Keeping on top of it shows pupils that you are aware of what they are doing and what they have done well. Use explanations to show how they can improve and how to achieve a target. Use praise phrases, stickers, stamps or certificates to show good work. Self or peer-marking can help teacher workload. It also encourages assessment for learning as pupils can identify what constitutes a correct or good answer with a peer rather than being told by their teacher.
Checking marking and record-keeping
As a head of department, take in random samples of books from all your staff to see if they are doing all these things. Make these unplanned or you may be handed a beautifully marked set of books while others lie untouched. Also check to see if staff are recording marks. In theory, anyone should be able to take their book and make sense of the marks and the progress a pupil is making.
Effective behaviour management should involve preventative measures and not be just "how we deal with a pupil if they are naughty". It is generally true that teachers who follow these sorts of guidelines have calm and productive classrooms and departments that uphold this have a successful and positive reputation around school.
Dawn Cox is head of REand GTPNQT co-ordinator at St Charles Lucas arts college in Colchester.Look our for part four next month